We just returned from a month long road trip across the north western US and Canadian Rockies. The experience was incredible. Our route took us through the Bonneville Salt Flats to Salt Lake City, then we visited the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier National parks where the views, wildlife, and geological features are all incredible.
We ventured into Canada where we explored Alberta and British Columbia taking in the charm of Waterton Lake, stopping to see incredible display of dinosaurs and the world's largest dinosaur in Drumheller, dined at Farm in Calgary, indulged our adventurous side riding a helicopter into the wilderness of Mt. Assiniboine for a 3-day backpacking trip, walked on a glacier that's part of the Columbian Ice Fields, tasted wine in the Okanagan wine region, stopped in Vancouver, and relaxed in Tofino on Victoria Island before re-entering the US.
On the last leg of our journey, we stopped in Portland, OR to take in the city, enjoying a delicious meal at Pok Pok, visited the Spruce Goose and other amazing aircraft at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, and toured Distillery Row.
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The van: A camper built for two
After considering options such as renting a truck and an Airstream trailer (swooon), or renting a small teardrop trailer, we settled on renting a minivan and turning it into a mini-camper-van.
The advantages of not backing up or positioning a trailer, no sewer hookups, more easily traversing mountain roads, and inconspicuously entering and parking in cities all made sense for this trip.
Making a van a home
We folded down the back seats, laid down an IKEA futon mattress with real bedding, and used the remaining 2 feet for storing a cooler, camp stove, and plastic bins that made up our kitchen. When sleeping, we moved our duffels to the front seats, otherwise they sat on top of our bedding. To make a bit more comfortable, we screened in the windows on the sliding doors to get ventilation and keep out insects.
I hung suit hangers to serve as a towel bars from the dry cleaning hooks, and employed seat back organizers as nightstands to hold glasses, books, and toiletries. We used a small battery-powered lantern when reading or hanging out in the van during late night rainstorms to avoid draining the dome light. To our delight the van came with numerous outlets (even a 2 prong outlet!), numerous storage compartments, and a remote control that opened and closed the side doors and back hatch! That's right, the back hatch would lower and latch on its own with the push of a button.
I'm not about to trade in my Honda coupe for a minivan by any means! I found the brakes insensitive and accelerator sluggish, but for long trips with groups or a camping trip like ours I'd consider renting one again.